COSATU’s Land Reform statement on the day we mourn 105 years since the adoption of the Natives Land Act

COSATU’s Land Reform statement on the day we mourn 105 years since the adoption of the Natives Land Act 


On this day, 19 June 1913, the Union Parliament passed the Native Land Act, which consolidated the dispossession of African land and its natural resources. The South Africa Act and the land acts of 1913 and 1936 rendered Africans landless, homeless and hopeless. The lack of progress in expediting land reform is seriously disconcerting and the consequences of those decisions like poverty, unemployment and inequality are still with us today.

It is lamentable and deeply unjust that 105 years after the adoption of the Native Land Act, millions of our members and their families still find themselves landlessness across South Africa.  This ranges from millions of South Africans condemned to living in squalor in informal areas to millions living landless in rural areas.  It includes farm workers who work the land for their survival but they still have no land security.

This is a crisis has gotten worse since 1994 because despite government’s efforts and billions of Rands spent, most farming land is in white hands.  Property ownership is deeply racially skewed.  COSATU believes that a mixed approach is needed to resolve this and that it must be balanced and sustainable.  It must advance the cause of transformation because continuing on the current trajectory is to invite future conflict.

Section 25

Much has been said about Section 25 of the Constitution. The federation believes that the section provides a clear mandate to government.  Yes it establishes property rights, including the right to compensation when expropriated but it also compels government to advance land reform and restitution.  It compels government to provide security of rights and tenure to the dispossessed and states that property rights cannot block this broader transformational mandate.

COSATU does not believe that the Constitution can be blamed for government, property owners and society’s failures to transform.  We must own our failures and not look for scapegoats.

Expropriation Bill, 2016

COSATU participated in the development of the Expropriation Bill at Nedlac and during Parliamentary negotiations. We strongly support it because it is based upon the progressive transformational clauses of the Constitution.  It gives government a clear mandate to advance land reform and restitution and redistribution.  It compels government to address the legacies of apartheid and colonialism.

It also provides clarity and the necessary protections for all citizens from possible abuses.  It clarifies timeframes and court processes that have often been abused by those who want to delay transformation.

COSATU understands that property is not solely the concern of the wealthy but also the working class.  Our members own homes and other properties they also want to have their rights protected.

However we do not want to see property rights and the right to compensation for expropriation to be used to delay land reform etc.  We do not want to see informal areas be denied security by absentee land lords.  We do not want to see farm workers remaining defacto serfs as they have no land.

COSATU Proposals

1.1         Expropriation Act


COSATU believes the main legislative route to address this crisis is the existing Expropriation Bill.  COSATU believes that the following should be done

A new clause should be inserted into the Expropriation Bill that states under which conditions compensation does not need to be paid or to be paid according to market value:

  • Abandoned land;
  • Neglected land owned by absentee landlords;
  • Idle land that is needed for productive public use;
  • State owned land;
  • Land occupied by labour tenants historically;
  • Land who’s value has been unfairly inflated due to massive state investments there or nearby;
  • Land held to speculative ransom that is needed for productive use;
  • Land that is offered by its owner to the state as a donation e.g. for land reform etc;
  • Land that was expropriated during the apartheid or colonial era where market value was not paid to the original owner and that was not paid for by the current owner; and
  • Land who’s owner benefited from an unfair discriminatory loan during the apartheid era e.g. a farmer who was given a below market value loan and now wants a market value compensation.


1.2         Section 25, (Property Clause)


COSATU does not believe that it is ideal to amend the Constitution.  This should only be done if absolutely necessary.  Ideally legislation such as the Expropriation Bill is what should be amended and utilised.  We believe that Section 25 empowers the state sufficiently to advance land reform and restitution and redistribution.

We are confident that the above proposals to amend the Expropriation Bill as well as other land reform legislation are sufficient to empower the state. However if it is necessary to amend Section 25, then we would propose its clause dealing with compensation be amended to provide for the above criteria when compensation is not necessary or when compensation may be partially paid.  We would not want to see Section 25 deleted as it also compels the state to drive transformation of property ownership, land reform etc.

Other Relevant Legislation

COSATU feels that government has performed poorly on the question of land transformation. In particular it has failed to prioritise the rights of farm workers.  It has not placed them at the top of beneficiaries to receive land.  It has failed to provide adequate support to emerging farmers.  It has failed to protect the agricultural sector as a whole from heavily subsidise international competition. It has failed to provide land security to informal areas and back yard dwellers and residents of communal areas.
Government and Parliament have equally been shamefully slow to prioritise and fast track the following legislation which would have further significantly empowered government to advance land reform:

  • Extension of Security of Tenure Amendment Bill:

o    This bill has been in Parliament for more almost four years and yet to be passed.

o    Provisions to protect farm workers from evictions agreed to by government at Nedlac were then forgotten by government when tabling the bill at Parliament.


  • Regulation of Land Holding Bill:

o    Government has delayed tabling this bill at Nedlac and Parliament.

o    It will advance land reform by placing caps on how much agricultural land one person may own and by limiting foreign ownership of agricultural land.


  • Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land Bill:

o    This bill will help preserve agriculturally prime land for agriculture.

o    Government has delayed tabling this at Parliament due to resistance from the mining industry.


  • Communal Land Tenure Bill:

o    This will give persons living in communal and other areas the right to choose what type of ownership they want to live under.

o    Government has delayed tabling this at Parliament.


If government and Parliament are serious about land reform etc. then they will prioritise these long delayed and overdue progressive bills.  To keep delaying them will make us doubt their commitment.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794